August 16th, 2018

Praxis: Make a garden in a jar

By Medicine Hat News on May 12, 2018.

I absolutely love this time of the year. Nothing is more enjoyable than rolling up my sleeves and getting out in the garden. Whether it is the vegetable garden or flower garden, there is so much to discover when you start digging. I am always amazed at what I do find in my garden after it has been sitting idle for several months, or has it? What is deep in that soil? Let’s investigate!

*Remember to ask an adult before doing this experiment.


– heavy rubber band (one of the really thick ones)

– small piece of netting or flexible screen

– small funnel

– scissors

– clear wide mouth jar or plastic container

– soil sample from outside (not potting soil)

– lamp

– magnifying glass

– container for your soil

– shovel


Rest the funnel on the mouth of the jar.

Place a piece of netting on the mouth of the funnel. You want it to be large enough so it hangs over the edges a little bit. Cut it with scissors to make it fit.

Secure the fabric in lace with the large thick rubber band.

Set this aside for now.

Have an adult help you as you go outside to a spot where you can dig up some dirt or soil. Look for some that has leaves or twigs in it even.

Make sure you take the spare container for your soil sample. It is too hard to carry soil in your hands, not to mention, you do not want to get it all through the house!

Have an adult help you dig up a small sample of soil and place it in the container.

Slowly and carefully pour the soil sample into the funnel. Shake gently, but be careful not to get too much soil into the jar. You are trying to separate out the other things from the dirt.

Small organisms will be able to go through the netting into the jar where you will be able to view them.

In order to get more organisms into the jar, place the lamp near the jar. When you place the lamp bear the jar, it is going to heat the soil. Many organisms will find it too hot and will “crawl” out of the soil into the jar where it will be cooler. Try placing the lamp close to the jar for several hours or even overnight.

Use the magnifying glass to observe and try to identify the different organisms from the soil.

Try taking different soil samples from different areas.

Once you are done, return the soil to where you dug it up, the organisms will want to go back home!


In this experiment, you made a “trap” so you can screen out the dirt from the large organisms in the soil sample you found. What you made in this experiment has a special name it is called a Berlese Funnel; an apparatus used to extract organisms from soil. It allows you to safely examine the tiny organisms that live in the soil. We do not want to harm these tiny organisms as they are especially useful to us. We need all of these organisms for a healthy ecosystem as they interact with other things like microorganisms, nutrients and water to make a healthy environment for the plants to grow.

Did you know that soil is a pretty interesting thing to study? To many of us, it just looks like dirt — nothing interesting to see here! As you discovered in this experiment, soil contains many organisms that we normally do not see with our naked eye when we are just walking by. When you start digging around, it is like a treasure chest! What did you find in yours? Spiders, ants, earthworms?

Patty Rooks is senior scientific consultant at PRAXIS, “Connecting Science To The Community.” Contact Praxis at,, Tweet or follow us @PraxisMedHat, or friend us on Facebook.

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